Moving on the 2013-14 Big Ten standings, this week the Indiana Hoosiers are up, who finished 9th in the conference, one year after going to the Big Dance as a No. 1 seed.
So, what happened this season?
The Hoosiers lost quite a bit from their stellar 2012-13 team: Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo, all moved on. Losing even one of those players is a significant blow, but to lose three talents like that in one offseason..well, it's not surprise IU's season went as it did.
IU went 10-3 during the non-conference portion of the schedule, with a 1-point loss to eventual national champ UConn on Nov. 22, a 17-point loss against Syracuse (which didn't go all that differently from IU's Sweet 16 meeting with the Orangemen earlier in 2013) and a 7-point loss to Notre Dame in Indianapolis.
The Big Ten slate started with a bang, as the Hoosiers would drop an OT affair in Champaign but knock off undefeated No. 3 Wisconsin at home a few games later. Sitting at 2-2, it was still early to say whether or not this was a fringe tourney team, a bubble team, or an NIT lock.
Then IU lost to Northwestern, at home, 54-47; the Wildcats didn't seem to care much for home court advantages around this point in the season.
Despite upsetting Michigan at home, the Hoosiers would lose five of their next seven following that ugly Northwestern loss. The Hoosiers picked up some nice wins at home late in the season against Iowa and Ohio State, but by then it was too late. IU finished with a 7-11 conference record and a 2-7 road record.
- IU ranked 4th in the B1G during conference play in possessions per 40 minutes, but was just 7th in points per possession.
- With Vonleh's abilities on the boards, IU finished 3rd in offensive rebounding percentage and 4th on the defensive side of the stat. Sans Vonleh, it's a good bet these numbers will dip in 2014-15.
- The Hoosiers were just plain bad at distributing the ball and holding on to it. IU finished last in turnover percentage and assist to turnover ratio. It always seemed like consistent offense only came in one of three ways for them: 1) Ferrell dribble drive 2) Ferrell goes off from beyond the arc 3) Vonleh doing his thing in the paint. As such, IU's offense was never a stable thing.
- Largely helped by Ferrell, IU finished third in three-point field goal percentage, behind Michigan and Michigan State.
D.J. White or Cody Zeller aren't walking through that door; the Hoosiers have some pieces to work with, but this is going to be a very, very guard-heavy team. Why? Star freshman Noah Vonleh made the jump to the NBA draft, which leaves quite a bit of production and size to fill; frankly, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. Then again, Vonleh was able to jump to the NBA after one year for a reason: he was pretty darn good. Even in a "normal" year for IU, replacing him with a standard array of college bigs would be very difficult.
In addition to Vonleh, IU lost Jeremy Hollowell and Austin Etherington, who decided to transfer. Neither were exceptional, but bodies are bodies.
Will Sheehey is gone as well--his season was a strange one, one of unrealistically upticked expectations unmet. Sheehey was like a solid but unspectacular third line center asked to center the top line. As a secondary or tertiary option (i.e. 2012-13), Sheehey was just fine. As a primary guy? It just didn't work out.
In any case, as far as somewhat big guys go, the infrequently deployed 6-foot-9 Hanner Mosquera-Perea is back, as is the 6-foot-7 Troy Williams. You're probably thinking, "Boy, Crean better have signed some bigs in this class." Well, good call, as he did grab two, although neither are highly touted. The 6-foot-9 Texan, Tim Priller, doesn't appear to have a star ranking on Rivals, and UIC is listed as his only other offer. As for three-star Jeremiah April, based on this Indy Star article back in April, he seems to be a defense-first guy as of now.
Outside of that, IU of course grabbed Michigan target James Blackmon, a five-star talent, back in October, as well as four-star SG Robert Johnson. So, yeah, they're set at the 2.
On the bright side for IU, most college teams would kill to have a point guard like Yogi Ferrell. What he lacks in height he makes up for in pure quickness and his ability to somehow shoot the lights out over Michigan defenders' outstretched arms like some kind of basketballing wizard.
Throw in Stanford Robinson at the 3, who is a bad shooter but somewhat of an agent of chaos in transition, and you have a pretty strong well of backcourt talent, even if two of the guys in there will be true freshmen.
IU has very little size returning, and will need their untouted pair of incoming bigs to log some real minutes this season. That is a recipe for not so good things, on the offensive or defensive glass. If you need to be reminded about Vonleh's overall impact on the game, check out these collection of Vonleh gifs boston.com put together for its NBA draft coverage.
But, can the backcourt, namely Yogi being Yogi and what should be the instant offense Blackmon will bring, be enough to offset the frontcourt's woes? I'm really not sure.
But, as with Penn State and D.J. Newbill, Ferell gives IU a shot in just about every conference game...especially at home. Oh, especially at home.